Q&A With Dr. Jaime
A Note from Nina:
Jaime is the second Naturopath I consulted in a month, after a lifetime of never meeting a single one. Her office feels more like a therapist’s than a doctor’s — velvet couch, hardwood floors, plants, nothing remotely medical in sight. I emailed her my copious blood test results in advance of the appointment, and we sat and spoke for an hour+, all about my sleep, diet, medical history, and life in general. I walked away (well, actually she emailed everything later) with a plan for supplements (only 3, specific brands, and an easy link for where to buy them online!), and a diet & exercise regimen. She helped me think through my HRT dosage (whether to increase as my GYN had recommended, or not, and we decided not). She also ordered an adrenal test kit (saliva) to be sent to my home, so that we could cover one last base to address the exhaustion I’d been feeling all spring. It’s now three weeks later and I’m feeling great — sleeping normally again, back doing hard exercise — and so grateful. I feel like she’s a great addition to the team of doctors I have in place. It wasn’t crazy expensive and didn’t send me down a rabbit hole of tests and pills, or major changes I couldn’t possibly sustain, which is what I feared when I was originally considering seeing her. Highly recommend.
What is a Naturopath?
A Naturopath is a primary health care professional who emphasizes prevention and addresses treatment while supporting the body’s inherent ability to heal.
Please tell us about your specific practice.
My practice is what I consider a specialty of naturopathic medicine. Before going to medical school I became a registered dietitian, and my interest in health and medicine has always stemmed from a fascination with nutrition. I found naturopathic medicine as a way to learn more about the human body, about the healing ability of the body, and about how to understand the use of botanicals and supplements. Traditionally trained nutritionists, although we learn a lot about food, have very little education about therapeutic diets and dietary supplements.
Why do people come to see you?
As a dual licensed naturopathic doctor and registered dietitian, I specialize in how nutrition affects our bodies: weight issues, gut issues and overall feeling of illness/wellness around food. I use functional lab testing, therapeutic diets, dietary supplements, botanicals, and exercise to help my clients. The most common reasons people come to see me are for weight management, gut health (resolving constipation, diarrhea, bloating, etc.), improving energy (sleep, brain fog, fatigue), food sensitivities (identifying foods that cause acne, headaches, etc.), and fitness or sports nutrition.
How does your work intersect with other care (the primary care doc, the gynecologist, the cardiologist etc.)?
I don’t consider myself a primary care doctor and actually encourage all of my clients to find one they feel connected to. As often as possible I work with these other doctors to provide the most comprehensive and personalized care. Although nutrition is not often a conversation in conventional medical care (sadly), very often the doctors I work with are in support of and happy to have someone helping their clients navigate lifestyle medicine. I believe the best care for any individual is a team-based approach where we can all bring our strengths and expertise to the table. Because I believe diet and exercise have a profound role in the health of the human body, I am able to integrate this into mostly every specialty of medicine or condition.
How does exercise play a role in your work and philosophy?
For me personally exercise is non-negotiable alongside sleep and diet. I have always been an athlete and that has carried into my professional life, but most importantly when I exercise I feel better physically and mentally. I work with my clients to help them figure out what form of exercise fits into their own life and is sustainable. I believe exercising is a choice, something that we have to prioritize or else it’s too easy to fall into the “I don’t have time to exercise” funk. A big mistake I often hear is that if I can’t exercise most days it’s not worth it, and that’s simply not true. Some exercise is better than no exercise, and really efficient workouts don’t have to happen every day or even most days. As for types of exercise, choosing something that you are interested in and feels good is imperative. If my client hates to run, then we don’t build running into their plan. In today’s world there are so many amazing ways to vary exercise from apps to free videos to boutique classes that we are not limited to just going to the gym.
How do your nutritional recommendations vary from patient to patient? Or do you just tell everyone to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat and carbs?
No; we definitely know that one size does not fit all. When I first meet a client, we spend at least an hour together, so that I can learn about their food habits, relationships, goals etc. Food is cultural, social, emotional; food is fuel, medicine, and also a drug. Every client I work with gets her own personalized plan, one that speaks to her goals and likes or dislikes, her symptoms or conditions. I do however believe that all humans should eat a minimum of 50% of their diet from plant sources (french fries don’t count here). For someone trying to lose weight those sources may be more non-starchy vegetables whereas for someone trying to gain or maintain weight those may be more calorically dense plants.
How do you feel about supplements? Do you have any favorites that you think everyone should take?
I feel strongly that supplements can be an incredible tool in the pursuit of health. That said, the vitamin world is also big business and there are a lot of poorly made products and false claims around supplements, which makes it so difficult for an individual to know what to take, how much to take, or even if they should take supplements at all. As an educator, I spend a lot of time teaching my residents and students how to talk about supplements with their patients, and as a doctor, I spend a lot of time teaching my clients how to choose healthy supplements. My three rules are:
- Make sure what you are taking is 3rd party tested or has good manufacturing processes. This will ensure that it has in it what it says.
- If you find you are taking so many vitamins that you don’t even know what you’re taking or why, stop them all and seek the help of a professional who can sort this out.
- Most importantly, you cannot out-supplement a bad diet or lack of exercise. Eating a bad diet but taking multi-vitamins does not cancel out the bad diet.
What’s the #1 complaint you hear from women over 50, and is there ever just one answer/solution?
Weight gain is absolutely the #1 complaint – and no, there isn’t one answer, but there is one concept: when your body has changed from what it was to where it is now, you have to change what you are doing. Something is not working. Women over 50 experience so many changes to their metabolism because of shifting hormones, therefore the types of foods they eat and the types of exercise they do may need to change as well.
Dr. Jaime Schehr is a licensed Naturopathic Physician and a Registered Dietitian, in practice since 2006. She’s the owner of Schehr Nutrition, a private practice in NYC, as well as the co-founder of xFitLab, a fitness consulting company. Jaime lectures often on Integrative Medicine & Nutrition, in both corporate and academic environments. She’s the assistant director for academic integrative family medicine at the Institute for Family Health of Mount Sinai and received her B.S. from Springfield College and her Doctorate from the University of Bridgeport.